(July 31, 2017 – Plano, TX) Despite 12 hits offensively, the Spirits (45+) squad ran into what’s turning out to be a solid adversary in the Caddo Reds this past Monday night. The Reds defeated the Spirits, 2 to 1 in the last match-up as the ghosts were unable to find their offense nor any answer to Reds pitcher, Dan Sosa. The Reds rebooted their last game’s success by bringing back Sosa and company and the team and their crafty left-handed pitcher were once again successful in keeping the Spirits away from home plate. The Reds were able to force 11 Spirits runners to be left on base, combined with some untimely moments offensively that saw bases loaded opportunities go nowhere.
The Spirits started the game with a little noise as Shawn Lee singled hard to left with one out and then stole second base. Sosa was able to get Patrick Bilgere swinging, and Kirk Sipila followed up with an infield single. However, the offensive momentum came to a quick halt as the bouncing ball made it’s way to the hole between the Reds shortstop and third baseman to find Lee at the wrong place at the wrong time. The grounder struck Lee in the thigh as he shuffled his feet in an attempt to avoid the collision and the inning was over.
Pitcher, Earl German took the start for the Spirits and has been battling a groin injury most of the season, however it didn’t appear to affect his command in the game’s early going. TK Hayes led off with a single for the Reds and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by former Spirit, Randy Brittain, but German was able to get Todd Murrah to line to short and Sipila made an easy play to double-up Hayes on second for the double-play.
It appeared as if the Spirits would get an additional rally started in the top half of the second when both Chris Lewis and Brant Finchum singled with two outs. Guy Koenig made his way to the plate with a hot bat, however Lewis went rouge and attempted an aggressive steal for third, but was thrown out easily by the Reds catcher, Rick Boysen. German held the Reds to a single in the bottom half of the inning, and once again the Spirits appeared poised to plate a run after three singles filled the bases with two outs in the top of the third. Lee returned to the plate fresh off a hard-hit single in the first, but chased a high Sosa fastball to go down swinging. German set down the Reds in order in the bottom half of the third to leave the game scoreless after three complete.
The Spirits defense played its part in the bottom half of the fourth as the Reds filled the bases on a single and a pair of walks by German. Boysen made his way to the plate with opportunity to take control of the game, but German was able to get him to line out on an 0-2 pitch that Lee easily corralled in left field to kill the inning. In what appeared might continue as a pitcher’s dual through the entire game, quickly turned to instant offense for the Spirits in the top half of the fifth. Sosa retired both Lewis and Eric McPherson to start the inning and with two outs, Finchum picked up his second single of the evening. With no interest in squandering another opportunity with runners on base, Koenig then laced the hardest hit ball of the evening by going opposite field with a hard-liner that made its way to the wall for an RBI triple. Dennis Gonzalez drew a free pass to first with a walk and first baseman Brian Hackney followed with a line drive, RBI single to left to put the Spirits up 2 to 0. Jack Nash reached on an error and with bases loaded, David Tipton had an opportunity to blow the game open. Sosa remained poised however, and was able to get Tipton to ground out to end the inning.
After the Spirits offense threw the first punches offensively in the fifth, the Reds chose to punch back and remind the club why its club is the NTABL Masters League defending champs. Sosa drew a walk but German was able to get Chris Young and Brett Baker out, leaving one on with two down. Sammy Vives followed with a double to score Sosa and the Reds closed the gap to 2 to 1. After Chris Duty followed with a single to put runners on the corners and the tying run 90 feet from home, German settled in and was able to get James Roberts to ground out.
Both Lee and Bilgere singled to start off the top half of the sixth, but Sosa and company did their part to keep a runner from scoring and the game headed into the sixth with the same score. Pitcher, John Holmquist just over 24 hours off of his all-star appearance at Dr. Pepper Ballpark, took the mound in relief of German and saw some additional all-star performance in his pitching. Holmquist quickly struck out Gary Menes and then was able to get Roderick Hicks to ground out before following up with his second strikeout of the inning, setting down Hayes. The Reds were able to end any threats of insurance in the Spirits top half of the seventh, but Holmquist also remained solid as he retired the first two Reds hitters via fly ball, and then gave up a two out single to Boysen. In a bit of poetic justice, Holmquist and company was able to remove any option for hero status from Sosa by getting him to ground out on a soft hit ground ball and a great play by McPherson defensively to seal the victory.
“Well, another 2 to 1 game. Another ‘nail-biter,'” commented Sipila after his team’s victory. “Fortunately, this time we were able to come out on top. Dan Sosa has proven to be a witch on the mound for the Reds against us, working some dark pitch magic and slowing down our bats. We were able to put runners on base throughout the game, but he was able to get the necessary outs to keep us from crossing home plate. Thankfully Earl (German) and John (Holmquist) were just as good, if not better on top of the hill for us tonight. Earl got us a win in 5 strong innings of pitching, while holding a 2 to 1 lead and of course, John picked us up the save with two shut down innings. As this season winds down and the playoffs approach, the competition level has definitely risen. We as a team, have raised our level of competition over past years and games like tonight as well as last week, were games we found ways to lose previously. We’ve grown a winning mindset and mental toughness with this group and I’m most proud of the progression of the defense. Nothing does more for a pitcher’s confidence then solid defensive effort behind them.”
The team returns next Monday to continue building that playoff resume, as they host the DFW Hurricanes at Graham Field in Plano, TX. First pitch will take place at 6:30PM.